I’d like to preface this with Josh Viola is a pretty amazing guy. He’s built and currently runs two companies, Hex Publishing and Frontiere Natural Meats, worked as an artist at Leviathan Games, has released award winning books, his debut being The Bane of Yoto (can’t wait to read it, it’s just farther back on my TBR), and on top of that, makes time to talk to a lowly little peon like myself. AND brought me the free copy of Blackstar which I am reviewing today!
I’m a pretty big sci-fi/cyber punk/time travel fan, and so the read was right up my alley and enjoyable. I did find some formatting/grammar/syntax problems, but I’ve found far worse in some “critically acclaimed pop sensation” books; they did not detract from the enjoyment of the read.
Pacing was well done. I feel like there was plenty of action and suspense interspersed throughout the novel, and the dialog was well worked. It was very descriptive, but didn’t suffer from purpley-prose.
There were only two style choices that I wasn’t offended by, but others may be. It’s told from 3rd person omniscient most of the time, but will then sometimes dive down into the person’s head, give their thoughts/feelings/senses, which is then 3rd person limited. It’s also told in past tense, but includes present tense words like “this”, “now”, and “here”.
Rezin, our leading man, was left a bit blank, and I feel this is unfortunate. He could have inspired a lot more feeling from me, but there were some missed opportunities to link me to him.
The only thing that irked me a bit was some of the references to Celldweller/Scandroid music. A few would have been alright, but within the first 50 pages, there’s nearly 12 references to different songs/song elements. It gets to a point where it feels very forced, and they don’t mesh together as well as I was hoping.
Battle descriptions were fantastic. I always felt very in the moment when it came to combat.
Josh pulled out all the stoppers on his vocabulary. Embarrassingly enough, I had to look up a few words through my read. All the more to add to my own mental dictionary, though! I enjoy variety in my reading. Seeing the same words over and over gets pretty exhausting.
The main issue I took with the novel was a few plot holes.
#1 The solution to all of their problems could have been solved in the one retro of Rezin saving Kaine years ago. He could have gone back in and just stopped himself from saving Kaine, Vray, and Bastion. Novel over. This could have happened about halfway through.
#2 The Outlanders respond to Elara’s (excuse me for saying but) short/weak rallying speech, when previously some of the Outlanders spoke candidly of raping and killing her. She was not developed as a leader of her people, and it didn’t seem to fit that the Outlanders responded to her call at the end of the novel.
#3, and this one is TOTALLY unimportant, just an observation of the end of the book. A tangent universe was created and sustained independently where Kaine was killed and reborn with Solaris’ powers, yet the universe where Kaine was destroyed at 20 years old did not result in a universe where Elara and Venus were born, though they may already exist… and then, when Kaine was killed in the past before he melded with Solaris, the future him from the main branch universe held together, possibly by the existence of Elara and Venus themselves, disappeared from existence, but they didn’t?
Time travel creates an interesting layer of complexity, but some of the events when held side by side don’t match identical behaviors of time travel paradoxes. If future Kaine in the universe that Elara and Venus came from winked out of existence along with the entire city he created, as the Kaine of the past died, then so should have Elara and Venus been winked out unless they already existed (or all of the elements to make them exist were set in stone) at the time past Kaine died, but since they didn’t, there would be a future for them unlike Venus said…
Unless they were protected by the powers of Icarus/Rezin, but then when Rezin relinquished his powers, Elara should have disappeared. X_X Time travel, especially when you have SOOOO much time travel/universe travel, is complex and intricate. I praise Josh Viola for getting it all to meld as masterfully as it did.